One of the original, and best, Bay Area Thrash bands formed in 1980. In the early 80's Exodus were a popular club band o the West Coast and influenced a host of followers like Slayer and Metallica. Although they recorded a hugely popular demo in 1982, their first album wasn't released until 1985 and was titled "Bonded by Blood". This record featured Paul Baloof barking out the vocals. They soon kicked him out and added Steve Souza to take over vocal duties and they then created two of the greatest thrash discs ever. The band had several ties to other Bay Area bands, including Metallica guitarist Kirk Hammett in their formative days. Vocalist Steve Sousa originally sang for Testament in their early days (back when they were known as Legacy). The band had more or less broken up in the mid-nineties, but reunited with original vocalist Paul Baloff in 1997 long enough to record the "Another Lesson In Violence" live album. Paul Baloff passed away just before noon on February 2nd, 2002 at the age of 41 of a massive stroke. Steve Sousa recorded two songs with Testament in 2001 and reunited with Exodus for some shows in 2002 and a new CD in 2004.
"Bonded by Blood" (3:49)
"Bonded in Blood" is a genuine thrash metal classic. Exodus were actually one of the first thrash metal bands on the scene, although their debut was delayed for several years. Finally released in 1985, "Bonded by Blood" featured a ferocious batch of thrashers including such classics as "And then There Were None" and one of the best thrash metal songs ever, "Piranha". Honestly, I don't really care all that much for the "look how evil we are" lyrics. Also, production here is thin as a dime. However, in 1985 we weren't overly concerned with pristine production. It was all about speed, licks, heavy riffs, crushing songs and attitude. "Bonded By Blood" has it all. Soon after it's release, vocalist Paul Baloff parted ways with the band and was replaced by former Legacy/Testament vocalist Steve Souza. Also of note, Metallica's Kirk Hammett has some writing credits on this one as he was a band member before Exodus signed with Combat Records.
I own two copies of this album, the one with the red cover is from Russia, and I have no idea what the record company is since everything is written in Russian. It's sort of a cool collector's disc. The original cover with the silly, evil Siamese twins is the Century Media re-release. It has been remastered and sounds great. Both versions contain live bonus tracks with Steve Souza on vocals.
Exodus - Pleasures of the Flesh (Combat) 1987
Exodus signs to a big label and put out another fine thrash metal opus. OK, perhaps it's not exactly up to the standards of the last two, but "Only Death Decides" comes extremely close to the bands' former greatness. "Thrash Under Pressure" is a fun little ditty that makes a statement about Exodus staying true to their style. "Changing of the Guard," a song about atrocities going on in Romania, is a cool speed metal tune as well. Somewhere around this time Capital released a CD single for "The Lunatic Parade" with the unreleased track "Good Morning" as a B-side. Have never seen it but have read about it.
Exodus - Good Friendly Violent Fun (Relativity) 1991
"Good Friendly Violent Fun" is a short, fun, live EP. The sound quality isn't bad at all and the performance is tight, which makes this one of the better live thrash offerings. Features songs from "Fabulous Disaster" and "Pleasures of the Flesh". "Dirty Deeds" is an AC/DC cover. For years this one was relatively hard to find but it was re-released by Combat in 1999 making it much easier to find. The Relativity version is the rarer of the two versions and seems to be the version most collector's prefer.
Exodus - Force of Habit (Capitol) 1992
in My Side" (4:04)
Everybody I know hated this album. I'm not exactly sure why as this disc doesn't suck. I will say that this disc pales a bit in comparison to the last three. There are a few choice cuts on here; the ten minute epic "Architect of Pain" and the cool Elvis Costello cover "Pump it Up." There is also a Rolling Stones cover ("Bitch") which I don't care for as much.
Exodus broke up shortly after the release of this album but reformed a few years later with original singer Paul Baloof and put out a new live album called "Another Lesson in Violence." I've not heard the whole thing, but the MP3's I've heard actually sounded pretty darn good. For some stupid reason they focused on songs from their first album with only a few cuts from "Pleasures of the Flesh." Geez, they could have at least done "Toxic Waltz!" Anyhow, I'll have to keep an eye open for that one.
This disc was recorded on March 8th,1997 at a reunion show at the Trocadero, San Francisco, CA. The band is back to it's original lineup minus original bassist Geoff Andrews and guitarist Kirk Hammet, who was probably tied up with his buddies fighting Napster and playing gigs at Music Awards Ceremonies. "Another Lesson in Violence" sounds amazingly live and raw, and contains fast and furious renditions of the band's early classics, screw-ups, dropped sticks, broken strings and all. Unfortunately, the band mainly played material from their debut "Bonded By Blood", the only to feature original (canned) vocalist Paul Baloff. There are also three tracks from their excellent sophomore album "Pleasures of the Flesh" all of which were co-written by Baloff before his abrupt dismissal. As an added bonus, the band even resurrects a never recorded early track co-written by Hammet called "Impaler." The sound quality is quite amazing for a live album, and certainly sounds better than "Bonded By Blood," if not better than most of their catalogue. Baloff's voice sounds pretty good, but I wish he would buy a dictionary and improve his vocabulary a bit. I swear the guy can't say three words without inserting the word "f**k." I must also say, I was disappointed not to hear "Toxic Waltz." Perhaps some think this song is cheesy, I think it's an awesome song and certainly an Exodus trademark. Besides this, the only thing that could have made this disc better was an appearance by Steve Sousa. Now that would have been cool. My digi-pak version was sent straight from Germany and contains a poster printout of the flyer from the show.
Well we have been awaiting the new Exodus since the reunion with Baloff in '97. With the death of Baloff I wasn't sure it was ever going to happen. Then we hear that Steve Souza is back with the band. Cool! This is the Exodus I have been waiting for. The reigning kings of thrash have returned with a mighty metal opus that is sure to please even the most brutal metal fans. However, death metal this is not. This is pure unadulterated thrash. We are talking buzzsaw guitars that will rip holes in your speakers and send any thrash fan into fits of moshing. Seriously this is one of the finest thrash platters of this decade. Souza is a welcome return and sounds great! Thrash riffs abound, the best comparison I can come up with is perhaps a mixture of Overkill's "Killbox 13", Vio-lence's "Oppressing the Masses" and "Pleasures of the Flesh", however even these don't quite describe this CD. To those worried that there is nothing more than the full-throttle thrash polka from the beginning to end, breath a sigh of relief for there is some variety present here. While songs like opener "Scar Spangled Banner", "War Is My Shepherd" and "Sealed With a Fist" are full speed assaults, others like "Blacklist" and "Culling the Herd" are more groove-laiden not unlike some of the more recent Overkill albums (ie. "Thunderhead"). Souza steps out a bit on "Throwing Down" and spits out the lyrics in a manner that almost sounds like a rap. Have to say though, I like this song. It's not some gay gansta-crap, stealin' samples from other songs, but straight up heavy metal with a riff that will pummel you and a killer guitar solo to boot. "Impaler" was actually written in 1982 and has Kirk Hammett as a co-writer. (Remember when Hammett knew how to play thrash?) Ahhh, but many don't know that Exodus were one of the creators of thrash metal and that Metallica ripped off plenty of Exodus' riffs for their songs, including a section of this track. Check out Metallica's "Trapped Under Ice" and see if you don't hear Hunting's "Impaler" riff.
Despite my glowing review of the music and vocals, there are a few negatives to this album. The juvenile, repetative use of the same expeletive track after track comes off as rather insipid and tiresome. I mean c'mon, Exodus aren't exactly teenagers trying to show how tough they are by cussing, so instead they just come off as unintelligent. Lyrically the band continues to shovel out their opinions on such topics as war, the government, violence and religion. "Shroud of Urine" in particular is nothing more than insults being hurled at people who hold to Christian beliefs and is basically based on an inaccurate world-view of Christianity. Unfortunately the lyrics to this song sort of ruin the appeal for me. Exodus basically reverted back to scathing anti-religion lyrics that I hated so much on "Bonded by Blood". Despite my distaste for the lyrics and expletives, the music is fantastic as is Zetro's voice. This one will make man ymetal fans' Top 20 list for the year.
In 2006 Nuclear Blast re-released Exodus' comeback album with a bonus live disc. Also included on Disc one is a cover of AC/DC's "Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap". The live material was recorded at the DNA 2004 at the Tempo of the Damned CD release party. The sound quality isn't great, but it's a cool collector's disc for the Exodus completist.
Exodus - Shovel Headed Kill Machine (Nuclear Blast) 2005
1. "Raze" (4:16)
I was a bit worried that this new Exodus CD would move away from the classic Exodus thrash sound. "Shovel Headed Kill Machine" is the band's first to feature new members: Lee Altus (guitar; HEATHEN, ex-DIE KRUPPS), Paul Bostaph (drums; ex-SLAYER, FORBIDDEN) and new vocalist Rob Dukes. Also, legendary metal producer Andy Sneap (ex-SABBAT) mixed this CD. Much to my delight, Exodus still sound like Exodus. "Shovel Headed Kill Machine" may very well be Exodus' heaviest album yet, but this is still pure thrash metal with only the slightest hint of more modern influences. However, there isn't even a hint of metalcore present here. The CD starts off with the intense "Raze" and the energy, aggression and speed doesn't let up til "Shudder to Think" which sports a more mid-paced, groove that reminds me slightly of "Black List" from "Tempo of the Damned". The aggression picks up again with "I Am Abomination" and continues on through the closing moments of the title track. Much of the groove found on songs like "Death List" and "Forward March" have been completely left off in favor of speed or aggression. Probably the biggest change in the band is in the vocals. Steve 'Zetro' Souza had a snake like hiss mixed with a half-bark/half-growl style. New vocalist Rob Dukes is similar to Zetro as far as style, but his tone is far deeped and less menacing. I must confess that I miss Souza's charima, Dukes does a great job. He is aggressive and actually fits the feel of this album quite well. What keeps the band sounding like Exodus is Gary Holt's signature riffs and those blazing leads. Despite the down-tuning, several of the riffs on this CD recalled the glory days of Exodus. Lyrically the band continues down similar roads travelled on "Tempo of the Damned". If there is one line on this album that best describes the lyrics, its "Revel and rejoice in unbridled demolition" from "Raze." This song is actually about destroying things with fire. As usual Exodus has something negative to say about the church. This time around it's the Catholic church and the recent pedophile priest scandals that are under fire. So, Exodus 2005 are different, yet the same. I had read a review that claimed that Exodus were moving towards metalcore. This couldn't be further from the truth. Thrash addicts should rejoice that one of the originators of thrash is still putting out material as solid as "Shovel Headed Kill Machine".
Exodus - The Atrocity Exhibition... Exhibit A (Nuclear Blast) 2007
1. "A Call To Arms"
The mighty thrash metal machine that is Exodus returns with their second album with vocalist Rob Dukes and their third since reforming. Stylistically, "The Atrocity Exhibition: Exhibit A" is not that far off from "Shovel Headed Kill Machine". Modern day Exodus combine pummeling guitar riffs, thick modern production by Andy Sneap, and a mixture of fast and mid-paced tempos to create a modern thrash metal monster. One of the things I have always like about Exodus is that despite their aggression, they know how to write songs that are memorable. They don't completely forsake catchy song writing for speed or aggression. The same is true here. Some thrash metal purists may balk at the mixture of speed and groove riffs, but quite frankly the best thrash bands have always balanced these aspect. Bands that stick to one over the other tend to get boring. Songs like "Funeral Hymn" while having a more modern sound also have that classic Exodus sound as well. Those looking for complete old school thrash may like album closer "Iconoclasm", a song driven by Tom Hunting's relentless drum assault. In short, modern day Exodus is a juggernaut of heavy metal and as bit more vicious, dark and heavy than they ever were in the 1980's.
Unfortunately I find new vocalist Rob Dukes to be a bit bland. It's not that he's a bad screamer by any stretch. Rather, he just doesn't quite have the charisma or character of any of the band's past vocalist. He largely sounds like any number of metalcore singers and is very monotonous. I read several reviews that have accused Exodus of going the way of metalcore, but frankly, Dukes aggressive barks are the only connection. Perhaps being a long-time Exodus fan, I'm just a bit hung up on the fact that Souza or Baloff can't be behind the mic. Many others seem to disagree with me, so take my opinion for what it's worth. It just seems to me that Exodus' past vocalists have helped to set them apart from the pack, while Dukes just fits in with the pack.
The lyrics on "The Atrocity Exhibition" are not for those who are easily offended. The lyrics are perhaps the biggest negative for me. Dukes and Holt seem content in attacking anyone that has any bit of faith whatsoever. The album is a full throttle attack on any belief in God whether it be Christianity or Islam. Exodus basically brand anyone who has any faith in God as ignorant. As such, Holt and company aren't much different than the over-the-top, hyper-conservative, religious groups that are out preaching and condemning anyone outside of their narrow definition of a Christian. Lines like "Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever is a lie" (from "Iconoclasm") and "eternal life in heaven is a fallacy" (from "The Atrocity Exhibition") are mighty bold claims to make.
It should also be noted that buried eighteen minutes into track nine is a bluegrass version of "Bonded By Blood". Pretty darned funny.